From what I’ve read, (okay, I googled it…) those of us in the “second half of life”, or approaching it (and I can’t decide exactly where I am – but I MUST be approaching it pretty soon, I think I found a grey hair…) – we often rearrange our priorities (stop working so much, perhaps be less involved in family, start doing what one really wants). And this opens up opportunities for more creative endeavors…like George Bush taking up painting portraits of world leaders (such as Putin), or Grandma Moses taking up painting at age 78 (yes, look her up – she’s still an inspiration to me), or Laura Ingalls Wilder publishing “Little House on the Prairie” books starting at age 64. Unable to figure out how to create an article for this month’s newsletter, I went for it and googled “I need inspiration for writing articles for runners” – hoping to finally stump Mr. Google. No way. The 1st web result was a gold mine. And that made me wonder about AI (artificial intelligence) – which is a hot topic among scientists. If this article I’m about to quote was already in a robot’s “mind” (which it would be, right?) - then it would know what to do for an article in a nanosecond. Suddenly, I feel quite inferior!
Back to creativity. Haruki Murakami is a very creative writer. He’s also a runner, and wrote a beautiful piece about how running has made him the writer he is. So, take note, dear runner. And, naturally, he came into his creative own later in life. He gave up a career as a successful jazz bar owner in Tokyo – and just wanted to be more creative. For Haruki, this creative process has become a sport, and he laid out a 3-step process. You 1st have to have talent. I wanted to quickly move on to #2, figuring this talent thing has been eluding me. His analogy helped – you can have the most phenomenal car in the world, but it won’t run unless you put fuel into it. The fuel here is talent, and I intellectualized enough to figure I have plenty of fuel (how else can one get up day after day and put in the endless miles?). #2 is focus. Now, that’s what I was waiting for. Most of us committed (asylum?) runners run/walk/ski/ bike/etc. because of our need to focus for several hours a day – focus on something more interesting than earning a living, the daily grind, etc. And the stronger the focus, the more you can compensate for meager talent. Whew! #3 is endurance. Ah, I can already feel it, I’m destined to be a great writer J Haruki said “focus and endurance—are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point.” So, dear endurance runner, you can approach any task at hand, and apply all those years of running/exercising and master whatever endeavor you wish. The next step for Haruki is to create a life that places “the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing.” Watch out – now this is getting serious! It means taking the discipline you’ve developed over years and apply it to something creative, and that will require you to carve out the time every day (as you do for running) to hone a new skill. But you know how to do it already. As Jocelyn Glie wrote (she’s the editor of this website “99u.com” I’m reading, which is called “Insights On Making Ideas Happen”): “To say YES to one thing, we always have to say NO to some others. Sometimes we forget we can only juggle so many things these days…” In daydreaming about my super- competitive days of running (and actually it still happens every time I rehearse for a concert or opera, and finally get to step out on stage and actually do it), I really connected to this comment by Andy Stuart: “Practice is where you do the work, so when it comes time to perform, performance becomes play.” So, here I am playing at my computer, which Dee Metrick makes me do once every month (at least). And my historical fiction novel just sits in bits and pieces scattered around my hard drive, waiting for a more disciplined (all right, daily) practice. So, go for it. Stop waiting for it to just happen. I expect big, creative things from the Big Sky Wind Drinkers!! Oh, and I just have to quote Rainer Maria Rilke (long distance runners hone this to perfection): “What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours – that is what you must be able to attain.” “Always trust yourself and your own feeling…Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened.” - David Summerfield
David Nutter Summerfield
The following blogs were first published in The Windrinker, a running newsletter published in Bozeman, MT (www.Windrinkers.org). There is a constant attempt at viewing the foibles of long distance runners in a humorous light so we don't take ourselves too seriously.